The first openly gay man elected to Pennsylvania's state legislature, Brian Sims has long been a passionate advocate for LGBT equality. But in a Monday press conference at Capitol Media Center in Harrisburg, the former NCAA football star didn't pull any punches in calling out the opposition that's preventing lawmakers from approving a statewide antidiscrimination act that would protect LGBT Pennsylvanians.
Explaining that the legislation, House and Senate Bill 300, is "wholly supported by Pennsylvanians," including the state's faith community and business leaders, Sims laid bare the bill's primary hurdle to passage.
"Who it's not supported by, is really one person, whose individual, personal ideology and his interpretation of his faith is keeping this bill from becoming law," said the Philadelphia representative. "That makes no sense to me in a government in the United States."
"It impacts me personally and professionally every day of my life, as it does for many people up on this stage," Sims continued, becoming animated. "Both LGBT and allied. It is high time that this legislation became law."
Sims also said the legislation, which would provide employment, housing, and public accommodations protections for LGBT people statewide, has more support within the state capitol than any other piece of legislation he's encountered as a lawmaker. But the relentless opposition of one state representative — a conservative Republican who chairs the House State Government Committee, where the bill is currently stalled — has rendered the measure all but dead in the water.
The chairman of that committee, Rep. Daryl Metcalfe of Butler County, not only has a long history of right-wing, antigay, anti-immigrant and antiwoman positions, he is the same legislator who famously blocked Sims from testifying on the House floor when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. At the time, Metcalfe said allowing the gay elected official to speak would be an "open rebellion against what the word of God has said."
Even the state's Republican governor, who last year garnered the ire of LGBT advocates for basing his opposition to marriage equality in a comparison between homosexuality and incest, supports the state's version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and has said he would sign it into law if it reaches his desk. Gov. Tom Corbett also recently declined to appeal a federal judge's ruling striking down Pennsylvania's anti–marriage equality law, bringing the freedom to marry to the final northeastern state that had yet to embrace it.
"It is an embarrassment to us as Pennsylvanians when we look at our neighbors and we see how far they’ve come with civil rights," said Sims. "That it’s not law in Pennsylvania is disgusting. My mom is a retired lieutenant colonel in the army and the words she would use to describe this would make a sailor blush. It's incredible.”
Watch Sims's remarks below.